She Must Be Seeing Things: Tainted Love

She Must Be Seeing Things She Must Be Seeing Things

She Must Be Seeing Things was initially released in 1987. Although by today’s standards the film is rather tame, at the time the subject matter (especially its S & M subtext) was considered to be very controversial. The central focus of the narrative involves the emotional dynamics between a seemingly mismatched lesbian couple. She Must Be Seeing Things marks the cinema debut of lead actresses Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw as well as being the second feature from writer, director, producer, and feminist filmmaker Shelia McLaughlin.

She Must Be Seeing Things has all the earmarks typical of a low budget indie film. Despite being transferred to DVD, the movie suffers from low (to almost no) lighting, poor sound quality, a soundtrack straight out of a third rate horror movie, and amateurish acting (not so much from the leads but the secondary performers). The film also features no real sense of time or place.

Agatha and Jo, the couple at the center of the film, are depicted as a study in contrasts. Agatha is an African American human rights lawyer who dresses androgynously and seems to have a passion for order (as seen when she cleans Jo’s apartment while her lover is away). The more feminine looking Jo is a struggling filmmaker whose personal life seems to be just as messy and haphazard as her career. Jo is portrayed as someone who’s “winging it” through life both in terms of her professional life as well as her romantic involvements.

She Must Be Seeing Things

She Must Be Seeing Things

She Must Be Seeing Things also deals with politics and such lofty topics as sexuality, identity, gender, and religion. The film not only focuses on the sexual and romantic aspects of a lesbian relationship but also explores issues like jealousy, paranoia, and each woman’s perceived “role” within the relationship.

It’s refreshing to note that unlike other films which deal with lesbians, She Must Be Seeing Things doesn’t resort to employing the cliché of a conventional genre ending. Consider the final scenes in movies such as The Children’s Hour (1961), Personal Best (1982), Lost and Delirious (2001), Loving Annabelle (2006), and The Fox (1967). What do all these so called “lesbian classics” have in common? They all demonstrate that the notion of happily ever after seems incompatible with lesbian relationships.

One of the most distracting aspects of She Must be Seeing Things is its mix of unintentionally humorous scenes with overly didactic ones. One of the funniest sequences involves Agatha dildo shopping in a local sex shop. When she asks to see something realistic the clerk replies, “Well that depends on what you think is realistic.” This is contrasted with the true story of a 17th century Spanish nun named Catalina which serves as the subject of Jo’s low budget film. Catalina de Erauso was a controversial figure because she dressed and lived as a man which was something unheard of at the time (ie. the pre Caitlyn Jenner era). The representation of Catholicism in Jo’s film ties in to Agatha’s religious experience which comes to the forefront when she tells her lover, “You know I’m a misogynist. The church taught me to hate myself.”

Unfortunately, She Must Be Seeing Things has a dated and claustrophobic feel to it. Viewers are left to wonder what could’ve been if only the filmmakers had access to a bigger budget, professional actors, and utilized a polished soundtrack.

She Must Be Seeing Things is available from First Run Features.

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About C.L. Illsley

I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia but have called Montreal home since 1999. I received degrees from Mount Saint Vincent University & Concordia University. I enjoy writing, watching movies, & most of all spending time with my 4 cats. Contact: Facebook | Twitter | More Posts